In most red states, country music is a major way of life. I grew up in Arizona listening to Hank Williams Jr., Johnny Cash, Tammy Wynette and Dolly Parton. But the country singer who currently gets the most play on my iPod is Miranda Lambert, who got her start on 2003's season of Nashville Star. Revolution, her third album, has garnered five hit singles and was just certified platinum.
This weekend Lambert is nominated for three Grammys and will be performing her hit song “ The House That Built Me,” solidifying her as the first lady of country. I decided to ask her about her music, her gun collection and her favorite drink on the road.
Meghan McCain: Congratulations on having such a big year. I'm a big fan of yours. Every time I break up with a guy I play “Kerosene” in my car on repeat. Are you nervous at all for the Grammys?
Miranda Lambert: Absolutely. I’m excited because I get to be at the Grammys performing for the first time, but I’m nervous because it’s a huge show.
Meghan: How many outfits do you have picked out?
Miranda: Three so far.
Meghan: You once said that being happy makes writing music difficult. What made you sad in the past that inspired your songs?
Miranda: Heartbreak is good fuel for country songs. And cheating. That’s the reason I love people like Merle Haggard, it’s painful and you can hear it. Falling in love is awesome, but I’m never drawn to happy songs per se, so whenever you sit down to write a heartbreak song and you're happily in love, it’s like, "OK, now I have to go back to a sad place to get something good."
Meghan: Did you see the movie Country Strong?
Miranda: I haven’t seen it.
Meghan: Well you’re lucky. I saw it and I hated it.
Miranda: I’ve heard mixed reviews.
Meghan: You saw Gwyneth Paltrow perform at the CMAs . Would you have given her any pointers?
Miranda: I think she did a good job. She’s an actress coming into an award show for country music and singing a country song. That’s a lot of pressure.
Meghan: I want to talk about your experience with guns. You’ve been really open about it—your song “Gunpowder and Lead” is about firearms. Can you tell me how many guns you own or if you’re a member of the NRA?
Miranda: I’m a lifetime member of the NRA. I got my first handgun license when I was 22. I was a single girl who lived by myself on a farm, and I think it’s absolutely necessary. And my dad was a cop, and also a big hunter. I’ve just grown up with guns, it’s just something that’s part of my life; there was always a gun on the nightstand. Dad taught us gun safety first. He taught us how to use them, how they work, and that they are a weapon. It’s been something that’s normal for me, you know?
Meghan: For me too. I’ve been a lot more open about it recently. It seems to shock people and it’s hard to tell people about growing up in gun culture, which I did as well – both my brothers are in the military and I am very much about gun safety. I think it’s cool there’s a young woman out there putting out the right message. You just mentioned your father and you've said that he’s an old-school Republican. Are you political?
"I got my first handgun license when I was 22."
Miranda: I have my views and obviously my music has connotations that lean toward what I believe, but I’ve learned through other artists' mistakes that I’m never going to use my career as a platform for politics, especially at shows. People come to hear music. It’s my job to entertain them, and it’s my escape too.
Meghan: What’s the weirdest thing anyone’s ever thrown at you onstage?
Miranda: This guy threw his boxers at me one time, which I thought was disgusting.
Miranda: We just got sick of it. I’ve been telling people we need to invent this machine that makes you blow in it before you send a tweet or an email, because there’s definitely the dangers of drunk tweeting.
Meghan: Do you ever drink on the road?
Miranda: I’m a Bacardi drinker. I drink Bacardi and crystal light.
Meghan: Wow. That’s an intense drink. I can’t drink Bacardi--it’s too strong.
Miranda: Are you a Vodka drinker?
Meghan: I am. I like Belvedere; it’s a little smoother. But I’m 5-foot-1 so I have to be careful, I’ll have two drinks and I'll be dancing. We both have tattoos on our arms. Do you regret yours at all?
Miranda: The only reason I regret it is because my dad was pissed. I love it, it’s kind of become my signature, it’s on everything I have, it’s my logo, it’s on all my backdrops—but my dad was upset. He’s kind of old school so he took it personally. But we’ve gotten past it.
Meghan: My parents hated it when I first got mine. I think it’s a little generational. One last question—why are all country singers blond?
Miranda: It’s kind of happened that way lately. It was a little bit scary at first, because it was like, "OK, how am I going to stand out!?" But there’s room for all of us. We’re all kicking butt.
Meghan McCain is a columnist for The Daily Beast. Originally from Phoenix, she graduated from Columbia University in 2007. She is a New York Times bestselling children's author, previously wrote for Newsweek magazine, and created the Web site mccainblogette.com. Her new book, Dirty Sexy Politics, was published in August.